Friday, July 18, 2014

@IndyStateFair - A Day At The Fair!

Every year, there is at least 1 person who jokingly says that they wish they could go to the Fair with me as their tour guide.  I'm no expert - I just have a deep love of our State Fair and I happen to find a lot of hiddens treasures!

So until I get my tour guide business up and running (kidding, kidding), I thought it would be fun to take a virtual walk around the Fairgrounds and point out the things I always love to do.  So this post is for those folks who hav enever been to the Indiana State Fair or who have been but felt overwhelmed and unsure of what to do.

First step - study the map before you go!  If you've never been to the fairgrounds, it can be really confusing to figure out what building is where.  Dow AgroScience Celebration Park? Huh?  Family Fun Park? Where's that??

I enter the fairgrounds through gate 6 (right side of the map) off Fall Creek Parkway.  This takes me to Infield parking (center of the map by the hot air balloons).  I usually try to get a spot so I'm near the Grandstand/Main Street Stage/Grand Hall area.

I come up through the entryway that brings me just to the right of the Grand Hall.  To the left of the Grand Hall is my first stop - The Dairy Bar for a glass of choclate milk.  If I'm arriving bright and early for a full and long day of Fair fun, the Dairy Bar is also where I pick up breakfast (bagel and cream cheese or a breakfast sandwich).

If you do arrive early and you really want to get yourself familiar with the fairgrounds before adventuring through everything, this would be a great time to hop a ride on a shuttle (those benches on wheels being pulled by giant tractors) and ride it for 1 loop around the fairgrounds to get the lay of the land.  Follow along on your map to get an idea of what's where.  Then get off by the Swine Barn to start our day.

First things first, let's visit the animals.  It's stinky and dirty - you have to watch where you step!  But showing animals is a big part of the State Fair.  There are 4H kids who have been raising sheep and pigs and cows... and you don't want to miss the World's Largest Boar or the prize winning piglets!  So stroll through the Swine Barn, check for horses in the Champions Pavilion (there aren't horses the entire time of the Fair), head back to the Blue Ribbon Pavilion to visit the sheep and look for the sheep shop by the door (where you can buy wool products and other cute things).  Walk through or by the South Pavilion and visit any horses that might be there - or just enjoy watching the horses get primped for showing!  Next up is the West Pavilion (the cattle barn).

Exit the cattle barn and go back to Main Street.  Circle back and go visit the Coliseum.  I'm very excited to go see what the refurb of this historic icon looks like!  From the Coliseum, head over towards the Grand Hall.  There might be some fun entertainment on the Main Street Stage to stop and enjoy.  Then head inside the Grand Hall for the Indiana Wine and Beer Expo (must be 21).

Next up, head to the DuPont Food Pavilion and learn about Indiana food agriculture, healthy living, see where things are with the cheese sculpture, visit the market of local Indiana foods, and maybe catch a demo on the Red Gold Culinary Stage.

I usually head to the Ag/Hort building next.  First stop once inside is always a glass of tomato juice and I fix it up with a dash or 2 of hot sauce, some worcestershire, and a little celery salt.  I always have to visit the honey booths in the Ag/Hort building.  Then a tour to see the prize winning produce.

You might be getting hungry for lunch at this point.  I really like the roasted corn that is in between the Ag/Hort Building and the Food Pavilion.  It's kind of across from the #11 on the map.  I don't usually do any big meals at the Fair - just a bite or 2 here and there.

Next stop is the Home & Family Arts Building.  You could seriously schedule an entire day just to peruse all of the sewing and art projects here.  It's like a museum and it's nearly impossible to take it all in.  There's also usually some really awesome Lego displays and there's another opportunity for demonstrations (check your program for the schedule for the day you go).  Also in this building, tucked back in a corner on the main floor, is a used book sale.  It's always fun to look!

If you've never been to Hook's Drug Store, take a moment to swing by and enjoy the history.  And if you'd like to indulge in an ice cream float, go right ahead!

I always like to do at least a quick walk through the Expo Hall.  I rarely buy anything but I'm often intrigued by what's being offered and I like to pick up free stuff.

After the Expo Hall, you can swing by the rabbit and poultry building.  I'm allergic to rabbits so I sometimes skip this one.  However, you will find baby chicks.  And a very interesting and fun assortment of chickens and ducks!

This might be a good time for a little break so walk back towards the Ag/Hort building and find a shuttle stop.  Take a ride past the Midway and over the covered bridge - next stop is the 4H buildings and Dow AgroScience Celebration Park!

Inside the 4H buildings are the finished projects of the 4H kids - everything from research projects to posters to sewing to woodwrok and more.  This is a good building to stop and use the bathroom.  Strange thing to say about a building, I know.  But there isn't a lot in the building so it doesn't draw the crowds like some of the other buildings.

Celebration Park is home to a lot of interesting entertainment this year - check your program for that day's schedule!

Up next is a walk through the DNR building.  My kids love to see the local fish and learn about our state parks.  Our favorite part of the DNR building is Goat Mountain, located on the side of the building.  Lots of goats to pet and you can buy some cut up carrots to feed them (and there is a hand washing station).

The FFA Pavilion has a lot to offer so you might end up spending a good amount of time here.  There's free putt putt, a couple of playsets, tons of farm safety displays (I think the one about staying out of the silo is scary), a fun market that raises money for FFA (Future Farmers of America)... it's a fun place to stroll through!

The Farm Bureau Building is a good place to stop and use the bathroom.  Same reason as the 4H buildings.  There are a few booths set up and you can get some SWAG here - and free popcorn!

Hard to believe we're only about 2/3 of the way through the entire Fair at this point.  And everything we've gone and done offers stuff we'r emissing after we leave or before we get there.  This is why I almost always need multiple days and why I have a day with kids and a day without kids.

This next section is an area where I don't spend a lot of time.  Not because there's not good stuff, it's just not an area where I've done as much.

We've got the Glass Barn, Normandy Barn, the Greenhouse, and Mac Reynolds Barn.  All worth walking through - especially if you want to know more about Indiana agriculture as a business, about plants and gardens.

Next up is Pioneer Village and this is always a treasure!  I love hearing bluegrass music back on the stage.  I love walking through the barn, especially at meal time when the workers come in and eat a olds tyle farmhouse meal at the table.  I love watching the wood carvers and other special artists there (quilting and tatting and such things).  I love heading out of the barn and visiting the coppersmith (that's where you can order a copper cookie cutter of your child's hand - I think they mail it to you after the Fair).  I love going for a taste of molasses and sourghum.  I love seeing all the old old old farm machinery working and clicking and chopping away.

Getting closer to the end of our day and this might be one to skip if you don't have kids with you - the Family Fun Park.  There are some shows worth seeing and one of my favorite lemon shake ups comes from the back side of this area (just go straight past the Hands On The Farm thing and head straight until you run into it).  But if you have kids with you - this is a must stop!  Always fun shows and displays, Little Hands On The Farm is a must-do (although, sadly, I think Teagan may officially be too big for it this year), a great meal deal at one of the vendors right by Little Hands On The Farm (they do a box meal of a hot dog and chips and a drink for a reasonable price).  Start heading back down to the south side and you'll first stop through the Pathway to Water Quality if you'd like to learn more about Indiana's waterways and systems - and you get a cool drink of water at the end.

Keep going and walk past the Speed Barns which is where the harness racing horses stay (and stay year round).  Here's a tip for you - don't try to save any cats you find around there.  Feel free to visit them.  But they live and work in those barns and aren't strays that need to go to the humane society.

The Kiddieland Midway is near the end of our circle tour.  Again - if you've got little kids and you're there for, say, kids day when you can get a wristband for $15, this is a great stop with the kids.  And now we've made it back almost all the way around.  Time to grab another glass of chocolate milk and either pack it in for the day or determine if you've got time to visit anything you wanted to see again.

The complicating factor to all of it is planning a day around shows and conserts and entertainment and presentations and demonstrations and such.  You could end up doing some bouncing back and forth to make it work.  But I promise that it is worth it!

After the series this past week, I hope you feel confident and excited about the upcoming Indiana State Fair!!  It opens August 1 and runs through August 17.  Maybe I will see you there!

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